Apr. 14, 2000

To Daffodils

by Robert Herrick

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: April 14, 2000

Poem: "Two Daffodils," by Robert Herrick (1591-1674).

On this day in 1828, lexicographer NOAH WEBSTER RECEIVED THE COPYRIGHT FOR HIS AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, a monumental volume containing over 70,000 words. For more than 35 years, alone, and by hand, Webster labored over the first truly American dictionary. It featured American usages—of spelling, punctuation, and pronunciation—which were rapidly growing apart from those of England and the British Empire.

On this date in 1865, at 10:30 p.m., PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS SHOT in the back of the head as he sat in a box at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. He was watching a Good Friday performance of Our American Cousin, by Tom Taylor, starring actress Laura Keene. Ninety minutes into the play, John Wilkes Booth, a deranged actor, fired a .44 single shot derringer at the president. Lincoln was carried to a boarding house across the street and laid on a bed. He died there at 7:21 the next morning, having never regained consciousness.

On this date in 1912, shortly before midnight, THE TITANIC STRUCK AN ICEBERG IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC, 400 miles south of Newfoundland, while on it's maiden voyage form Southampton to New York. The liner Californian, less than 20 miles away, could have saved most of the passengers had its radio operator been on duty to hear the Titanic's distress calls. The ship stayed afloat for about 2 hours before breaking in two and sinking into the ocean. About 1,500 of the 2,224 people on board lost their lives.

It's the birthday of photographer ROBERT DOISNEAU, born in Gentilly, a suburb of Paris (1912). He's known for his black and white photographs of ordinary people caught in the act of doing ordinary things. His most famous photograph is a 1950 shot of a young couple kissing on a crowded sidewalk in front of the Paris Hotel de Ville, or City Hall.

It's the birthday of historian ARNOLD TOYNBEE, born in London (1889). He's known for his twelve-volume collection, A Study of History (1934-1961).

It's the birthday of "Smart Set" novelist JAMES BRANCH CABELL, born in Richmond, Virginia (1879). His novel Jurgen (1919) caused a stir with its sexual frankness.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »